AALSKERE: New family-owned stern trawler powered by WASSP F3i

The high level of specification of the new Aalskere reflects the depth of thinking that Orkney skipper Iain Harcus put into a project that was more than four years in the planning and build.

Standout features on Aalskere K 373 include:

  • Two customised catch-handling systems
  • Two sets of fishroom scales and labelling machines
  • Capability to make over 30t of flake and slush ice per 24 hours
  • Deckhead and underfloor chilling in 2,500+-box fishroom
  • Five single/twin-rig trawls available to shoot away
  • Bow and stern thrusters
  • 16 bunks
  • Two multibeam sonars
  • Quad-view video wall

Given the high level of interest that the new Aalskere generated before her arrival at Kirkwall via Peterhead, it is unfortunate that the Covid-19 pandemic spoilt the excitement and celebration that normally prevails when a new state-of-the-art vessel berths at her home port for the first time. During the two weeks that Aalskere was alongside at Kirkwall waiting for the Certificate of Registry and fishing licence to be issued, the vessel was effectively out of bounds to all but her skippers and crew.

Owned by skipper Iain Harcus, his wife Elizabeth, his father John and Don Fishing (Skelwick LLP), Aalskere was built to replace the partners’ previous 23-year-old boat of the same name. Although just over 1m longer than her single-trawl predecessor, by featuring a full-length triple-track trawl deck and stern ramp, the new Aalskere bears absolutely no resemblance to the old one, which had two net drums on the quarter and used a boomswinger to take the codend aboard forward.

Skippered trip-about by Iain Harcus and William Brown, and sailing with a crew of eight or nine, Aalskere is expected to fish in the North Atlantic west of Orkney for most of the year, including the Rockall grounds, with occasional trips to Faroese waters.

The new vessel is insured by Sunderland Marine. Aalskere’s whitefish catches will be placed in boxes supplied by Box Pool Solutions before being sold through Don Fishing, Peterhead.

When fishing west, Aalskere will mainly work from Ullapool, where the extensive quay space and deepwater berthing is well suited to landing requirements and for pulling damaged gear onto the pier for repair.

Having heard good reports from skippers who had taken delivery of a variety of new whitefish boats designed by Ove Kristensen of Vestværftet ApS, Iain Harcus initiated discussions with the Danish designer when he took the decision to build a new boat tailored to his specific requirements, to allow him to fish with enhanced levels of safety, efficiency and catch quality through most of the year, in the challenging conditions routinely endured in the North Atlantic.


High-end electronics equipment in streamlined wheelhouse

On entering Aalskere’s wheelhouse, the immediate feeling is of space and orderliness, enhanced by the superb level of natural wood finish that is evident throughout the boat.

Skipper Iain Harcus placed the emphasis fairly and squarely on a clean and uncluttered wheelhouse interior, made possible by ever-advancing electronics technology.

A desk area housing the E-Catch reporting computer is positioned on the starboard side forward of hot drink-making facilities and a built-in sink. The trawl console extends along the middle of the wheelhouse, adjacent to extensive bench seating arranged in the aft corner to port.

A single skipper’s chair, supplied by E Vejvad Hansen of Hanstholm, is positioned on the vessel’s centreline at the head of a U-shaped console in front of three 55in 4K bridge monitors. Slightly angled in to each other and set back from the wheelhouse windows, these three units form a quad-view video wall operated through an integrated trackball control system installed by Woodsons, which supplied the majority of the electronic equipment.

Another seven Neovo X24 monitors are located in the overhead forward console, and there are a further six X19 glass-fronted screens at the trawling console.

Slim steering consoles are arranged at the forward corners of the wheelhouse.

Ten monitors are integrated into the Woodsons quad-view video wall control system, selection of which is chosen by a single trackball control and cursor that moves seamlessly between all connected screens to take control of any source within the video wall. An unlimited number of fishing, steaming and in-harbour pre-set modes can be made by the skippers, with the addition of day/dusk/night brilliance control pre-sets across all screens. All can be accessed through either a fixed touchscreen display or iPad.

The importance of accurate seabed mapping and fish classification is highlighted by the array of top-end acoustic equipment now functioning in Aalskere’s wheelhouse.

This includes a SeapiX 3D multibeam sonar (150kHz), providing the skippers with high-resolution 2D and 3D seafloor mapping, with images of detected fish marks overlaid in real time on the chart. The fish marks and seafloor mapping images are displayed across three video-wall screens providing 2D and 3D mapping with ground hardness, echosounder view with triple beam and bottom lock, and fish classification tools utilising a choice of four 120° beam sonar swathes. Using this powerful combination of high-resolution echosounder and seafloor mapping, fish marks can be seen in real time and in relation to their 3D environment and the fishing gear, enabling the skipper to effectively steer the net towards the mark.

Vertical bottom-sounding duties are handled by a Kaijo KSE310 38kHz split-beam fish-sizing echosounder. Having been installed in the previous Aalskere, the Kaijo echosounder’s performance is well-proven in the detection of marks, and accurate calculation of the size of fish within them, utilising its 15 separate beams.

A WASSP F3i multibeam sonar supplied by Furuno UK is also installed. This 160kHz multibeam unit provides seabed mapping and real-time ground hardness, enabling the skippers to quickly build up an accurate 3D representation of the bottom they are fishing, so the gear can be towed tight to small peaks and ground edges where fish could be lying.

Aalskere’s location is displayed at all times on two FishingWin V9 2D/3D plotting systems alongside a TimeZero V4 plotting system. All are interfaced to give a combination of AIS/ARPA, wind, tidal and chart overlays.

Two Sailor 6570 DGNSS navigators process details of Aalskere’s position. Vessel heading is provided by type-approved JRC JLR-21 satellite and Simrad RGC50 compasses.

The Furuno FAR-2228 25kW and JRC JMA-5410-6X BB units provide radar and AIS tracking, both within the radars themselves and also interfaced to the plotters.

Steering is handled by a Navitron NT 921G dual-head autopilot complete with three joystick control sets.

The mandatory GMDSS communications required for the areas where Aalskere will fish include a Sailor 6310 MF/HF 150W radiotelephone, Sailor 6222 Class A DSC VHF, JRC NCR 333 type-approved Navtex, Jotron Tron 60S GPS auto-release EPIRB, Tron SART 20 and two Entel HT649 handheld VHFs.

Additional communications equipment includes two Sailor 6210 VHFs, Phontech 3102 20-way talkback system, LT-3100 Iridium communications system, and e-SEA 60Ka internet and e-SEA 80 satellite TV systems.

Woodsons also installed an extremely comprehensive CCTV system that utilises 24 cameras and an underwater camera monitoring the propeller, nozzle and triple rudder at all times.


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